Did Victorians blame tooth decay on worms or germs?
Scientific understanding of dental decay received a huge boost in the work of Dr. Willoughby Miller, an American dentist in Germany in the late 19th century. His publication of his microbiology discoveries, Micro-Organisms of the Human Mouth, eradicated old myths and brought about “an unprecedented interest in oral hygiene”… and occurred just in time to contribute to my novella’s [Isabella’s Calico Groom] setting and characters’ development.
What is a Dental Dispensary (as seen in Isabella’s Calico Groom)? Compared to true-to-history dispensaries for medical care and eye troubles, this component of medical care to meet the needs of the poor was a real thing in the 19th century United States.
While researching dentistry in 1890 for an accurate setting for my title, Isabella’s Calico Groom, I was quite surprised by how advanced and “modern” (by today’s standards) dentistry was. Significant advances in dentistry had occurred in the previous decades, making dentistry truly “modern” compared to patients’ previous experiences. The sheer quantity and magnitude of improvements in dentistry qualify dentists of the 1890s to claim “Modern Dentistry” in their advertisements.
Nineteenth Century American women who desired an advanced education (and to work as a professional) fought an uphill battle. As late as the final decade (1890s) cultural beliefs demanded “good” women made home a bit of heaven on earth, toiled only as a help-meet to her husband, and found all the joy and satisfaction there she could possibly need. Historical sources underscore this dated belief system, and set the stage for the challenges faced by my character Dr. Isabella Pattison, DDS, in Isabella’s Calico Groom (within Calico Ball: Timeless Western Collection).
Dentistry in the Old West was dangerous… if a body could find a dentist.
Doc Holliday (of Tombstone and O.K. Corral fame) was a dentist– and a gambler.
Clay Allison attacked his dentist with intent to rip out the doc’s molar–“tooth for tooth.”